Aramaki Yoshio no 'buyo buyo kôgaku' - SF, shururearisumu, soshite nanotekunorojî no imajinêshon (荒巻義雄の『ブヨブヨ工学』―--SF、シュルレアリスム、そしてナノテクノロジーのイマジネーション La "technologie molle" d'Aramaki Yoshio - SF, surréalisme et imaginaire nanotechnologique)

Abstract : At the turn of the millennium, "nano" has become the new scientific catchword: fresh born nanotechnology is expected to revolutionize the world, for better or worse. Future scenarios building on its promises are so far-reaching that they look like science fiction, while being convincing enough to prompt a debate on the possible social and ethical implications. However, such a reflection becomes in turn highly theoretical and intrinsically future-oriented, science fictional indeed! Berne (2008) has called it moral imagination, and has examined the use of science fiction works to teach ethic classes. The critical perspectives offered by science fiction are unique precisely because it relates science to the public, providing images and metaphors that help make sense of the increasingly rapid technological changes. Despite its very rich tradition, going back to the Meiji period and the birth of the scientific novel (Kagakushôsetsu), the irregular detective fiction (henkaku tantei shôsetsu) of the Taishô area, and the rise of the modern SF genre in the late 1950's, little attention has been paid to Japanese prose science fiction... A surprising fact since Japan has emerged in the 1980's as the very metaphor for hyper technology consumerism in the western imagination (Tatsumi, 2006). This paper focuses on the short story Soft Clocks (Yawarakai Tokei) by Aramaki Yoshio, because it was one of the first works of Japanese science fiction to introduce a technological novum close to nanotechnology, nicknamed "Flabby Engineering" (buyo buyo kôgaku). First published in the fanzine Cosmic Dust (Uchûjin) in 1968, it was considerably revised and republished in SF Magajin in 1972. This second version became the base for a reprint in a collection released by Hayakawa and further widespread through its small format paperback edition by Tokuma. Soft Clocks was thus written in the heyday of the New Wave movement in Japan and playfully blends the Dalinian surrealist imagination with science fictional elements. Interestingly, it was translated in English, stylized by sf writer Lewis Shiner and published in the magazine Interzone in 1989, during the cyberpunk movement. I first discuss the reinvention of Soft Clocks in English with an added touch of cybernetics imagery and argue that the cyberpunk stylization was made possible in the first place by Aramaki's insightful connection of surrealism with science. The translation illustrates however the fact that the short story can be interpreted in various ways and that it beautifully relates as well to the nano imagination and its dream of reshaping the world by design. I further consider the relations between surrealism and nanotechnology by showing that Aramaki's choice in the late 60's to use "rheology" as the furigana transcription of busseiron (condensed matter physics) to explain Isherwood's technological background was already remarkably on tune with the Dalinian imagination and its playful confusion between hard and soft matter. It was also simultaneously foreshadowing the emerging nanotech conception of materiality as a set of malleable interactions ready to be reorganized according to human design. I finally look into the ethical perspective underlying the short story through a discussion on the final battle opposing the two main characters: Dali of Mars and his granddaughter Vivi. Referring to Dali's essay "The New Colours of Spectral Sex-Appeal," I argue that Dali of Mars stands for a totalizing vision of both ultimate control and absolute chaos that erases every boundary and leaves no room for differentiation. By contrast Vivi represents a "softer" view of technological development, one that calls for partnership rather than mastery and that maintains some sense of boundaries to enable harmonious interactions between individuals and the outer world.
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Contributor : Denis Taillandier <>
Submitted on : Monday, October 14, 2013 - 2:42:13 PM
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Denis Taillandier. Aramaki Yoshio no 'buyo buyo kôgaku' - SF, shururearisumu, soshite nanotekunorojî no imajinêshon (荒巻義雄の『ブヨブヨ工学』―--SF、シュルレアリスム、そしてナノテクノロジーのイマジネーション La "technologie molle" d'Aramaki Yoshio - SF, surréalisme et imaginaire nanotechnologique). SF Magajin (SFマガジン), 2013, 54 (5), pp.239-271. ⟨hal-00872814⟩

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